I’ve sunk 100+ hours into Player Unknown: Battlegrounds. Even with all the issues that still need to be fixed, it’s still one multiplayer game that keeps me coming back for more. Part of it is the level of uncertainty and diversity the game offers, which plays a huge factor into its success. I’m sure Fortnite players could also relate to this.
It’s no surprise that DICE, and probably a slew of other developers/publishers are racing to release their own game that capitalizes on the Battle Royale genre. We’ve seen this happen before - all you really need to do is take a look at the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre to understand.
In 2002, Warcraft III had a custom user-created game mode called “Defense of The Ancients” or DoTA for short. It became so popular that it almost dwarfed the original game. Over time, the genre attracted a lot of attention and Riot’s League of Legends exploded in 2009. Subsequently, Valve released a spiritual sequel to the original DoTA in 2013 and Blizzard joined in with Heroes of the Storm in 2015.
Today, these are the three games that you hear most about in the MoBA scene. Before they became kings, there were so many racing to get in on the genre. Heroes of Newerth built major steam, but eventually was overshadowed by the other three. Smashmuck Champions had some decent hype, but never garnered the attention it needed to stay relevant. We even had developers/publishers try to carve up something on mobile devices, which was laregly hit or miss.
There were three factors that played an important role in making sure these games outshined all the others, and these will likely also be the key factors that shape the Battle Royale genre as well. They include:
- Offering a freemium experience
- Strong developer and community engagement
- Major presence in esports and streaming market
We’re already seeing some of these factors play an integral role with Fortnite Battle Royale, a freemium experience. A report from Newzoo shows that 16.3% PC players have picked Fortnite as their go-to battle royale, compared to the 14.6% of Player Unknown: Battlegrounds (PUBG) players who have stuck with it since the game introduced the genre to the world. In fact, we saw a decline in Steam players for the first time in February, which may indicate that being first to market may not be enough to keep the game going.
In addition to being free, Fortnite has had tremendous support from Twitch and YouTube influencers, which play a major role in building an eSports market. PUBG, on the other hand, has been getting stale with streamers, even with major Twitch supporters like Dr. Disrespect predicting the death of game. Considering how important streaming is to building a a steady presence, it’ll be tough for PUBG to stay afloat in the long run if they can't shift the current perception of the game.
Lastly, community engagement is a major factor in ensuring long-term success for the game. Fortnite has been constantly dishing out a number of events that have not only driven strong word-of-mouth with their player base, but also consistent coverage from media who have become brand ambassadors for the game. PUBG has been hit or miss with their community engagement, but they have recently started on this with custom in-game events, new maps, and feedback to players - receiving positive sentiment from media and fans. However, we have yet to see how this will support the game in the near future.
As of now, Fortnite and PUBG remain on top but there are plenty of clones that have tried to join in on the fun (I’m looking at you Rules of Survival). I’m certainly excited to see what bigger studios might have in store and finding out how all of this plays out, but I also hope that this does not become the main focus for all developers. Battle Royale games are currently a breath of fresh air, but once the market becomes over saturated - things could get stale fast.
So the battle royale gold rush is on, and DICE is investigating how a massive, last player-standing mode would work with its current mechanics.